The Most Hated Cruise Line ‘Added Fee’

January 15, 2013 | By | 35 Comments

These days, experiencing a mega-ship’s full raft of options requires a willingness to pay extra — at the for-fee alternative restaurant, for the late-night room service and pizza delivery, for the opportunity to wear a bathrobe.
Sure, these extras are optional, but there are still certain fees that leave cruisers emotionally spent.

Among the 22 up-charge options included in a recent feature on nickel and diming, the two earning the most ire were for-fee main dining room grub and buffet food. Both earned 4.5s on the Nickel and Dime Scale (patent pending), which ranges from one nickel-dime (fair fee!) to five (death by coining).
Those two venues are sacrosanct, readers say, the last bastions of food included in the fare. On several of its ships, Royal Caribbean‘s main dining room menus encourage passengers to celebrate their cravings with a $15 filet or $37.50 surf ‘n’ turf — plus a 15 percent gratuity. Is nothing sacred from the intrusion of revenue streams? (Don’t answer that. Wait! Do answer that, in the comments below) Royal Princess, the first of two 141,000-ton, 3,600-passenger prototypes, will debut in June 2013. Among myriad bells and whistles will be a pair of for-fee options in the buffet complex. These include a “crab shack” and a fondue area. The fee is TBD. The thumbs down verdict is not.
The most accepted? Gratuities (2.5), babysitting (1.5) and gambling (1.5), which somehow managed to garner more than one nickel-dimes, though we have no one to blame but ourselves for losing big at the 15-cent slot machine.
Oh, you thought everything should be included in the fare? See 20 great fee-free options that still are.
If you’d rather pay for everything up front — even if it seems like quite a bit more — a luxury cruise might be for you.
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    35 Responses to “The Most Hated Cruise Line ‘Added Fee’”

    1. Sparky74
      January 15th, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

      The added fee that irks me the most is Royal Caribbean’s shuttle bus in Brisbane, Australia.

      Their ships dock at Fisherman’s Island. This is a bulk grain terminal miles from anywhere. If you don’t book a shore excursion through the ship they sling you $12 per person for a bus each way. The only other options are $$$ for a taxi or stay on the ship.

      I’d much rather they add an extra $50 onto the fare up front and put on “free” (included) shuttle buses. What’s next; charging for tender boats?

    2. Monty
      January 15th, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

      Fee’s of the Seas, not getting any better (cheaper) to cruise nowadays, you really need to add it all up b 4 booking to see just how good or bad a “deal” it is ?

    3. Neta Platt
      January 15th, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

      I think offering a upgrade for a steak in the MDR is ridiculous and the only way they will get rid of it is if no one orders it.

      I cannot stand to eat in the buffet so I for sure would never pay to eat at one.

      As for charging in Australia for a bus ride. There are many ports we go to that do not have a city right there and so if you don’t have a tour you have to pay a taxi or city bus or something to get to the city. I feel that is a very normal thing. I think the cruise lines try to make our lifes easier on us but I don’t think they have a say as to what port they sail into.

    4. Aunt Kel
      January 24th, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

      Fee for the sea. No wonder why many vactioners are electing to go to an all inclusive island.

    5. Marlene
      January 24th, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

      I first cruised over 30 years ago and the main reason I loved it was because everything, except gratuities, souveniers, gambling and drinks was covered. What a great idea! Now everything has changed. Not only are there added fees for MDR special entrees, fees for special dining rooms, fees for non-alcoholic drinks, etc. but they constantly try to sell you things…book an excursion…stop by this store for a freebie which turns out to have strings attached or is so cheap who would want it or they roam the decks hawking wares (photos, jewelry, etc.) I think I’ve taken my last cruise.

    6. Terry
      January 24th, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

      We started cruising in the early 90s and have been on a dozen cruises. The reaswon we started cruising is because it was all paid for up front and all and all cruising was cheaper than a land vacation. Now it seems it is no longer that way do to all the extra fees charged. I think personally we will buy a motorhome and stop cruising all together. I definately will not pay to eat in the buffet or purchase a meal in the main dining room. I don’t have a problem with the so called upscale restaurants as we don’t eat there anyway. Next you will be paying for the shows and to swim in the pool.

    7. Don
      January 24th, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

      The extra fee steak in MDR is from Chops, and is an aged filet from the Chops grill. Rather than the upcharge of $30 and all the huge portions of food from Chops, you get the crown of the meal, the super great, aged filet. It’s well worth the extra charge IMO. It’s a $50 steak if you went to your local steakhouse, if not more.

    8. John
      January 24th, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

      Not only do I have to pay extra fees, but as a single cruiser I have to pay 175-200 percent of the fare because the cruise industry has ignored singles.

    9. Paul Hinds
      January 24th, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

      I think the drive to megaships with all the dime and quarters (fees are getting too big to call it nickle and dime!) is the short term return and no thought about return cruisers.

      The experience on the huge ships that treat you like a WWII Army transport and then make you pay extra for any comfort just will drive cruisers away.

      The Lux. top lines like RSSC where EVERYTHING including AIRFARE are going to draw more and more of the repeaters (older people with more to spend) because the % difference when all the extras (and extra cost) is added in is very small. Think about a 10-17 day cruise and what you would spend on laundry … then think about RSSC having free self-serve machines with automatic soap (supplied) dispensers. Think about NOT wondering about drink costs, think about Gratuities included, think about standard Shore Excursions included and you get the idea.

    10. Henry Kelly
      January 24th, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

      Went on a NCL cruise in October and found the choice of food in the main dining room to be below what we had experienced on previous cruises
      The fee for dining now serve what was once served in the dining room. We went to the Italian room(we had a free dining gift), I didn’t think that was too good, no Veal choices.
      Dining room Chef Specials were Broiled Tilapia and Mexican Meatballs (?)

    11. Robin
      January 24th, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

      I have no problems with them charging for these extras because I don’t have to buy them. Cruise companies are trying to keep their prices down and if they were all inclusive I probably couldn’t afford to cruise as often as I do.

    12. Bert
      January 24th, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

      I was surprise for the main dinning room on RC to advertise for premium steak and Lobster, besides that the new menu is so confusing .
      I guss RC wants the revenue without opening a theme restaurant. Before long we’ll be paying for THe Lido buffet.
      Cruising is going to the sharks

    13. Lauren
      January 24th, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

      For those who like to play in the casino, it used to be that you could use your players club points to help cover excursions using your onboard account. Now, on NCL, if you book the excursion online, you must prepay in advance using your credit card and you can’t apply your points to it later. Your only option is to book the excursion onboard, but you run the risk of the it being sold out. Lousy policy!

    14. Valerie
      January 24th, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

      Cruises are getting more ridiculous by the minute. I also think WE will be flying and going walkabout because one no longer has ANY idea of what a CRUISE is going to end up costing with all these add-ons. And the new two out of three FREEBIES by Celebrity…. GHASTLY!!! Costs are RIDICULOUSLY TACKED ON TO THE PRICE OF THE CRUISE OFFERINGS!!! DO they think we are STUPID? FREE?!? It is insultingly obvious that there is NO FREE ANYTHING. Cruise ships had better begin getting real or the bad publicity they are generating is going to sink them!!!

    15. Valerie
      January 24th, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

      P.S. Celebrity retooled and “UPgraded” their Millennium in 2011… UPgraded it to a floating BAR in my opinion. WHAT A HUGE DOWNGRADE! They ripped out their game / card room for yet another BAR!?! Left no even a single place to sit, socialize and play games among passengers. What a disappointment!!! I booked a week up AND a week BACK to / from ALASKA thinking we would be able to play games / cards with others!!! I will never get past being angry about that!!!

    16. Wm &Susan
      January 24th, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

      Agree, cruising has become more of a hassle than a relaxing getaway. Recently on Princess C. Always fighting for a table in the buffet. Pool lounge chairs were taken by people who got there early and held with towels.
      The ship is about taking your money while you are looking for a wonderful vacation retreat.

      10 + cruises taken. Perhaps looking for a different way to spend my retirement money in the future.

    17. Bob S
      January 25th, 2013 @ 1:11 am

      The beauty of the extra fee food is that you don’t have to buy it, as there are usually great alternative selections on the menus which are included in your cruise fare.

    18. kris
      January 25th, 2013 @ 8:18 am

      Our first experience on this was last year with NCL (epic) Epic alright- charge for this charge for that. Has put a bad taste (along with their food) on NCL. Now- drink all you can for $$$$$- just what i want a bunch of drunks. What happen to just cruising- Floor shows, visiting ports, games on board, relaxing by the pool- the times are a changing- its sad because it not for the better.

    19. Stephen
      January 25th, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

      It seems to me that the cruise lines are starting to get more and more like the airlines have become. We are getting to be nickle and dimed out of enjoyment.

    20. John
      January 25th, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

      There is nothing wrong with additional fees for additional services. What is wrong, is leading people to believe that the cost will be X when it really will end up 2X or more because of the up-charges.

    21. Larry Ickes
      January 28th, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

      I always look forward to my popcorn while watching a movie. Princess advertises their fresh hot popcorn while watching their poolside movies. 3 cruises in a row no popcorn. Why? “The popcorn machine is broken.” Really? Or is it too much trouble? I know it seems like a small thing, but I don’t believe them. It’s the principle.

    22. Charlene
      January 28th, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

      I worked in the travel industry 16 years ago and boy has everything changed! My all time favorite ship was RCCL’s Nordic Empress that sailed NY to Bermuda: small enough to enjoy, the food was fabulous (one meal better than the next) and the service truly impressive. Ever since they started with the mega ships, the food and service have gone downhill. Now unfortunately, the cruise lines are like every other business, putting profits before customers. As long as people are willing to pay the extra fees, the cruise lines won’t do a thing to rescind them. I miss the “good old days” in more ways than one!

    23. Faith
      January 30th, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

      Some fees in the past have been reasonable such as corkage fee.I dont mind paying for alcoholic drinks or even soda but I dont like the coffee charges.They could just have machines that offer specialties like latte.They are following the airlines in adding the additional charges. I expect to see this everywhere soon. Hotels will be next.I agree, if no one buys into these fees, they will have to drop them. If they dont get takers they will simply not offer rather than go back to giving for free. Maybe if they had an al la carte menu when you booked it would be a bit fairer to the cruiser instead of finding out after you board.

    24. Clive Harvey
      January 31st, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

      It is so simple: there are so many huge cruise ships out there. Any ship carrying 1,800 passengers is regarded as being mid-size, where as the majority of ships carry 2, 3 or even 4 thousand passengers and many of these cruises are short, just 7 or 10 days. In order to keep these ships filled and profitable the cruise lines appear to have no choice but to ‘nickel and dime’ it. I’m not saying they should but it is just that the cruise industry has got so large that it has become inevitable that cruises are so ridiculously cheap, after all they have to entice you aboard somehow and then once you are there you are captive. In 1983 I sailed across the Atlantic aboard the QE2 and flew home (not in Concorde) for £770. Now, 30 years later, I can make the same trip aboard the Queen Mary 2 for less. Come on, there has to be something wrong here! So, charging for everything can only be inevitable. How do I avoid it? By not sailing aboard the mass-market ships/lines such as Royal Caribbean, NCL, Carnival, Princess etc.

    25. Terry Layes
      February 1st, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

      My concern is that the quality of the ‘free’ food in the main dining rooms may further diminish in order to promote the ‘for fee’ options.

    26. Leanne
      February 8th, 2013 @ 9:39 am

      Well..I am not looking forward to boarding as much as I was…might have to raid the piggy bank or go Kate Moss..

    27. Phil
      February 9th, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

      Geez what a bunch of whiners! When I take a cruise, my bill is equal to the tips, that’s it. I don’t drink, don’t gamble, don’t go to specialty restaurants and don’t buy photos. My shore time is all DIY and I save a ton of money vs the ship’s excursions. I have as much fun, if not more, than anybody else on the ship because I take part in all the FREE stuff: the great food in the dining room (yeah the food is good you fussbudgets!), the activities, the shows, the pools, hot tubs and loungers (which I do not hog).

      The good old days??? It was a business back then just like it is now. The clientele and demand has changed. A business has to change with the times or die.

      Allow me to repeat what the few sane people on this thread have said: If you don’t like the extra fees, DO NOT PAY FOR THEM! Duh! Stop complaining and vote with your money and your feet.

    28. Paul Hinds
      February 11th, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

      There was a comment about cruise lines not having a choice as to where they dock. Well, actually they do but again it comes down to $$$ – as in where is the cheapest docking fees!

      If you watch closely you may see at many ports that the more expensive lines have a more convenient location (or not) and remember that these cost more. If you are at a container terminal they you pay the container ship rate and if you do not supply shuttles then probably a discount since local transportation can rake in big bucks. Just the 50-100% markup in shore excursions they are lots kickback type revenue streams that the industry is not disclosing (at least willingly). By the way – just ask that tour operator if they will guarentee being back by certain time — most will.

    29. Doug
      March 12th, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

      My candidate for most hated is charging for Coca Cola, and that it has to be brought from the bar.
      It should be the same as coffee or tea.

    30. 13 Hottest Cruise Topics in 2013 |
      December 14th, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

      […] Blog: The Most Hated Cruise Line ‘Added Fees’ Compared We feel your pain when it comes to cruise line added fees. This blog hit home with our readers, who expressed outrage over lines up-charging for things like food in the main dining room and even the buffet. Read more. […]

    31. 13 Hottest Cruise Topics in 2013 | E-Travel Plus For Travel News And Guide
      December 15th, 2013 @ 10:22 am

      […] Blog: The Most Hated Cruise Line ‘Added Fees’ Compared We feel your pain when it comes to cruise line added fees. This blog hit home with our readers, who expressed outrage over lines up-charging for things like food in the main dining room and even the buffet. Read more. […]

    32. offroad911
      December 15th, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

      Charge me for any food (anywhere, anytime, any reason) and I will find another cruise line that will value my business. I expect to pay for tours, excursions, alcohol, gratuities. I refuse to pay for traditional cruise amenities.

    33. Valerie
      December 16th, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

      Please tell me which cruise lines are charging for main dining room food, buffet food so i DON’T book that line because that is exactly what we are in the middle of doing, choosing a line and ship. We have been on Carnival 5 time, would love to go to Costa Rica to see the Sloths so we thought maybe Celebrity or Holland America. Celebrity has 123 go offering drink packages which is exactly what I want but the prices are extra high and no available aft balconies that are not obstruted. Does anyone have any experiences going to the Panama Canal for 11 nights, did you see the sloths in Limon Costa Rica or go white water rafting and were the prices worth it or was Holland America or Princess just as good or better? I know that is alot of questions but having such a time making a decision, want to go March or April 2014.

    34. alf clatworthy
      December 18th, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

      We’ve booked our 2nd panama cruise in April on the Zuiderdam 22 days. we enjoyed it very much with lots of ports. the panama canal was a treat to travel through. there is a swamp tour in Costa Rica with lots of animals to see parrots, alligators etc..It leaves April 18th from Fort Lauderdale to Vancouver B.C.

    35. Stan1
      February 23rd, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

      The large ( Princess, HAL, Celebrity, RCCL, NCL) cruise lines vary substantially in the demographics and on-board offerings, including the dining rooms and buffet. We found that cruise line managements ( as any other business) continuously change the quality of food, the ratio of staff to passengers, and what they will spend on entertainment. Cruise tickets usually cover costs with little profit, and the profit centers ( bars, excursions, photos, etc.)make the difference. The big surprise is that some cruise line managements choose to ignore repetitive complaints from experienced cruisers, which results in their ( our family for example ) choosing to cruise on other lines which offer a better experience at the same price, even with a poorer itinerary My agent tells me that the cruise line management will not correct the problems ( food, service, activities, entertainment) until bookings severely drop, which may then be too late. Offering cheaper ticket prices will not attract experienced cruisers more than once.

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